"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, January 16, 2017

Armageddon Is Upon Us–Inauguration Day Is The First Day Of Post-Apocalyptic Year Zero (Of Course Not)

Armageddon is a very serious concept.  Not only the end of the world but the moment of final divine judgment – who is saved and who is not.  It is one thing to be incinerated in a holocaust of fire; another thing altogether to be consigned to a tormented eternity in Hell.

Of course, many of us will be saved – ‘elected’ as fundamentalist Christians believe, chosen for heaven not because of our good works, principles, or moral rectitude but thanks to God’s grace – but most will be consigned to perpetual darkness, our punishment for vanity, disbelief, and arrogance, never to see God’s face.

Armageddon, as amply described in Revelations, is the final, cataclysmic end to human existence.  God will have had enough. 

The Old Testament is a chronicle of his dissatisfaction with Israel, his thankless child.
If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen, that it may live
And be a thwart disnatur'd torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child! (King Lear)
God drowned humanity in The Flood, destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sinful depravity, and threatened the Israelites time and time again for their faithlessness and disobedience – especially after he had given them so much.

It is unlikely that the arrival of the parvenu Trump, characterized as the incarnation of  Beelzebub and a Biblical evil so great that God himself will take notice; the precipitator of the fiery end to civilization as we know it, the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Seventh Seal will precipitate Armageddon.

He is a bit player in the divine comedy.  Milton in writing Paradise Lost would never have even considered such a minor, insignificant, irrelevant character in his epic.  Satan and his warriors and acolytes were heroic in their defiance of God and valorous in their fight to regain their rightful place in heaven.  The battle between Satan and his armies and those of God and his envoy, Jesus Christ, was indeed apocalyptic.  The likes of Donald Trump are blips on divine radar, hardly noticeable, and if tracked, dismissed as irrelevant.  Life, death, redemption, resurrection, and eternal salvation are far more important.

Yet, Inauguration Day is seen in the eyes of many as the anti-Biblical, anti-Milton apocalypse.  Satan has finally won and the forces of good, defeated, wounded, and in disarray, will be incinerated.
Progressivism, the secular inheritor of Christian good, will not go down to defeat so fast.  Although the incarnation of Evil will ascend to a secular throne, the ranks of the defeated and marginalized will not willingly go to the divine gas chambers.

Donald Trump, then, is not the true incarnation of Satan – the all-powerful beast of darkness and the unthinkable.  Armageddon may be imminent, but not a sure thing.  The forces of reason, rationality, righteousness and good still have life and can be arrayed against him.

Intellectually you can’t have it both ways.  Either Donald Trump is the Devil incarnate – powerful, second only to an omnipotent God, and never lacking in will, resentment, and determination – or he is simply a passing fancy of the temporarily disaffected.  Progressives characterize Trump as the Devil, but cannot wholly believe in his divine evil, otherwise opposition would be futile and doomed.

So progressive lamentations are nothing more than political sour grapes.  If one can fight Trumpism , then there are no evil, Satanic forces in play.  He simply gamed the system in his favor, topped the faded and pretentious arriere garde liberalism of Hillary Clinton, and bested the arrogant, entitled, Establishment Elite.

Yet conceding secular defeat would be an unacceptable admission of political failure.  Unless Donald Trump is eternally cast as Satan, self-worth goes down the drain.

There is a spectrum to any phenomenon whether light, sound, or politics.  There are those who view Donald Trump as the second coming of Jesus Christ, the savior of the Western World if not mankind; and those who see him as a penitential prophet.   He is either Satan’s minister of Evil, or God’s instrument of destruction.

Of course most people fall within the limits of the spectrum and consider Donald Trump either as a very bad candidate for the Presidency, or a necessary Herculean cleanser of the Augean stables.  In either case there is a lot of give and wait-and-see.  For those of us who are old enough to have witnessed many electoral campaigns and many presidencies, we know better than to cast any president as savior or demon.  They are no more or no less than popular excrescences – men who come out of the popular culture and who are simply smarter, more savvy, ambitious and ruthless than the rest of us.

Hannah Arendt has written extensively on the nature of evil; but she is only the latest in a long lineage of philosophers from Augustine, Aristotle ,and Plato to Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Sartre who have reflected on the subject.  There is little consensus, and the Catholic Church is still debating the nature of Satan and his influence in the world.

Whatever one may think of these philosophers and theologians, and however one concludes about the nature of evil, Donald Trump does not figure in the calculus.

He may be a huckster, a son of Hollywood, Las Vegas, and Wall Street; a showman, circus performer, canny politician, and self-defined ‘man of the people’ and hero of the populist revolution; but he is not evil.  There will be no Armageddon, no Last Judgment; not even any sacking of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Why is it then that there are such lamentations? So much pain and visceral agony? So much concern for the fate of America, the world, and humanity?

Trump is a divine nobody, a brilliant trickster who has increased market share and viewership.  He is a financial, television, and real estate whiz who understands American culture, ambitions, and desires.  He is no Satan, nor does he even represent the Forces of Darkness.

He is simply a political arriviste and a man who understands American zeitgeist better than anyone else.  Yes he will transform government in ways that even Ronald Reagan could never envision.  Yes, he will dismantle media exclusivity and return dialogue to the people via social media.  Yes, he will dismiss demands to ‘look like America’ cast in narrow terms of race, gender, and ethnicity and refocus the dialogue on true intellectual diversity; and yes he will shrink government and restore American democracy to its fundamental principles.

He is not Satanic, demonic, or even a  smidgen evil; and casting him in those terms suggests secular immaturity at best.

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